Many people in society drink alcohol sometimes for the good feelings they get from it, but alcoholics feel the need to drink alcohol all the time. Alcoholics think about alcohol a lot. They may not think they have a problem with it and can quit drinking any time, but when they drink, they cannot stop before they get drunk. An alcoholic continues to use alcohol even after bad things happen, such as being arrested for drunk driving or making a fool of himself or being sick in public. Abusing alcohol is not something people do because they are bad or weak. It is a disease that can be passed down from a parent or even a grandparent who also was an alcoholic. You may just drink a lot of alcohol without being a real alcoholic, but if you continue to abuse alcohol, you can become one. Alcohol abuse grows worse over time. Some people die from it. See what a Standard Drink is (pdf).
Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
- You need a drink to get over a hangover
- You like to drink alone
- You're late to work because you were drinking the night before
- You need a drink at a specific time of day
- You lie about, cover up or make excuses about drinking
- You have blackouts and don't remember what happened while you were drinking
- You can't remember things that happen after you've been drinking
- You don't feel like doing much of anything (except drinking)
- You drink to relieve stress, fear, or shyness
- You find that your drinking is harming or worrying the whole family
- You become more moody, jealous, easily angered or violent after drinking
Criteria for the Alcohol Dependence Syndrome
There or more of the following manifestations should have occurred together for at least 1 month or, if persisting for periods of at less than 1 month, should have occurred together repeatedly within a 12-month period:
- A strong desire or sense of compulsion to consume alcohol.
- Impaired capacity to control drinking in terms of it onset, termination, or levels of use, as evidenced by; alcohol being often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended; or by a persistent desire to or unsuccessful efforts to reduce or control alcohol use.
- A physiological withdrawal state when alcohol use is reduced or ceased as evidenced by the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol, or by sue of the same ( or closely related) substance with the intention of relieving or avoiding withdrawal symptoms.
- Evidence of tolerance to the effects of alcohol, such that there is a need for significantly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or the desired effect or a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.
- Preoccupation with alcohol, as manifested by important alternative pleasures or interests being given up or reduced because of drinking; or a great deal of time in activities necessary to obtain, take, or recover from the effects of alcohol.
- Persistent alcohol use despite clear evidence of harmful consequences, as evidenced by continued use when the individual is actually aware, or may be expected to be aware, of the nature and extent of harm.
(World Health Organization, 1993 ICD-10)
What Alcoholism Does to You
- Liver damage (scarring of the liver)
- Heart disease
- Ulcers (due to irritation of the stomach lining by alcohol)
- Poor nutrition, because alcohol robs the body of some vitamins and minerals and interferes with digestion of food that is eaten
- "DT's"--delirium tremens--resulting from alcohol withdrawal, which shows as confusion, memory loss, and sometimes seeing or hearing things that are not there
- Cancer of the mouth, esophagus, or stomach
- Brain damage, possibly leading to insanity
- Damage to a developing fetus if you drink while pregnant
What is a Standard Drink
Don't think that because an alcoholic is in recovery, he or she won't have a relapse. A relapse doesn't mean treatment has failed. Sometimes a relapse convinces the alcoholic that to stop drinking alcohol is the only choice. Counseling, rehabilitation programs, and self-help groups (AA, sponsor) are parts of recovery. Remember, a person who is about to start drinking again usually thinks or talks about drinking before doing it again. That is a warning sign that the person needs to go back to the sources of help listed above.
Where Can You Get Help?
- Alcoholics Anonymous (interpreted meetings)
- Hospitals, health clinics, mental health centers, alcoholism clinics
- Salvation Army
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
- Alcoholism counselors
- Clergy and family counselors
- Alanon and Alateen
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (NCADD)
- SAISD (Substance and Alcohol Intervention Services for the Deaf)
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